You can’t get to the really brilliant ideas without first building off of the really awful ones. In the Nike Kitchen, the shoe company’s innovation lab responsible for the genre-busting Nike Flyknit (as seen in the 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Cup), the company focuses on building a safe space for failure to help push the envelope and develop completely new products. “By having an area where we can incubate and build, and not necessarily always worry about what a failure it is, we understand that we can learn from it. It really allows us to amplify and create new seedlings, off which we can build more crops,” explains Shaffer.
But the most important part of innovating, says Shaffer, is including your user in the entire process: “For us, having that single focus, which is our athlete, and listening to and observing them from the beginning of a project all the way through to the end is extremely vital.”
Benjamin Shaffer is a designer/innovator who lives and works in Portland. As the designer and creative lead of Nike Flyknit he orchestrated the growth of a new paradigm shift in footwear manufacturing that was introduced in the 2012 Olympics on the feet of the some of the world’s fastest athletes. Then as a Studio Director, his passion for new materials and processes of making and a keen eye for aesthetic relevance positioned him nicely at the incubation of Nike’s future product within the Innovation Kitchen. He is now a designer at Apple.
In a journey that began 12 years ago with Nike, Shaffer has designed products from a variety of categories ranging from Yoga, Dance, and Running, as well as contributing to the conceptualization of Nike Plus. Six years in, he joined the Innovation Kitchen assisting the Women’s Training team with their Diamond Flex technologies, Free, and performance calibration as their Innovation Lead. From there he transitioned to be the Innovation Lead of Sportswear where he was charged with designing, developing, and introducing technologies such as Nike’s Hyperfuse into Sportswear.